There is an odd mix of technology in the Gotham pilot, so I was wondering what time period the series is set in.
Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller explained this to Entertainment Weekly some time ago:
Gotham is not set in any particular time period: Okay, this has been out there a bit, but Heller had a nice quote elaborating on the show’s timeless quality: “It’s a mash-up, to use the modern phrase,” he said. “If today Batman exists, then this world is the past. But it’s everybody’s past, an 18-year-old’s past and a 54-year-old’s past. So in your memory, the past is all mashed up together. So in this Gotham, it’s a kind of timeless world. It’s yesterday, it’s today, and it’s tomorrow all at the same time, because that’s the world that dreams live in.”
I think Bruce Wayne is supposed to be about 12 in the show. I understand that Batman Year One has him returning to Gotham to fight crime at the age of 25; if we wish to assume that that takes place now, then Gotham would take place 13 years ago, or 2001. That would be consistent with the abundant flip phones and CRT monitors and TVs, although many of the cars look from the 80s and 90s to me. Still, my "vote" would be early 2000's.
Season 1 episode 16 "The Blind Fortune Teller" gives us a loose range, at least.
The plot of the episode revolves around two feuding carnival families, the Lloyds and the Graysons1. During an interrogation, we learn that they've been feuding for a long time:
Gordon: How come your families don't get along?
Owen Lloyd: [Alphonse Grayson's] great-grandfather falsely accused my mother's uncle Barry of stealing a horse.
Gordon: When was this?
Owen Lloyd: Before the Great War.
Gordon: World War I?
Lloyd's language is imprecise at best, but within three generations of World War I is closer than we were before. Anecdotally based on my own family, it would seem that Gotham is set in a contemporary year, if not at a contemporary (or consistent) level of technology.
Of course, bear in mind that dating across this many years is a wildly imprecise science, and lots of things can skew the results. For a particularly squicky example, I refer you to Maudie Hopkins, who died in 2008 and connects us through one generation to the American Civil War (which ended in 1865). Although this is an extreme example, it means that it's hypothetically possible for "three generations out from World War I" to be centuries after the fact.
1 Yes, those Graysons
One thing that I think needs to be clarified is whether or not Gotham is related to Arrow (and therefore also The Flash), as in, are they the same Universe or not? Because we know that Arrow is set in 2014, and certain characters from Arrow
- Helena and Laurel-
become very relevant to the Batman universe.
After former Batgirl Barbara Gordon is paralyzed by The Joker, she forms her own team, the birds of Prey, which Helena and Laurel belong to. As far as I know, the three are roughly the same age. Barbara Gordon is the daughter of James Gordon and, most probably, Barbara Kean. In Gotham, she hasn't even been born yet. In Arrow, Helena and Laurel are in their late twenties. So if Gotham and Arrow were set in the same time, even if Barbara Gordon were to born by the end of season 1, by the time she is ready to form the Birds of Prey, Helena and Laurel would be heading on fifty.
If the universes are indeed the same, then this would be indicative of the fact that Gotham would have to be set at some point in the late 80's. With the technology they use in Gotham, I'd say that it isn't too far fetched a theory that the show is set maybe in the 90's, which would still make sense even if the universes are the same
The clothing, which I always feel is a sure-fire was of telling what time a movie is set in, also doesn't help us very much here, as Mrs. Kapelput, for example, has a whimsical Edwardian style, Barbara Kean is very much modern, Selina Kyle sports a, according to the costume designer, modernized Steampunk look and the rest of the cast wears a timeless style that makes it almost impossible to place them anywhere on a timeline.
I think that Gotham is probably set in a similar time to several Tim Burton movies, and Bruno Heller said as much in an interview. It's set in an undefined, timeless period, reinforced by heavy gothic, whimsical and modern influences. In other words, Gotham could probably be set anytime between 1980-2015, or in no specific time at all. I think it's really up to the individual viewer to decide what period they think Gotham is set in. Personally, because of the stories that overlap with Arrow (see above) I would support the theory that Gotham is set at some point during the early 90's...
Which means little Barb should show her face soon, and little Dick Greyson, if the writers are going to bring them in, which would be seriously awesome!
The setting is contemporary. If the show runs as long as its runners hope (everything wants to be the next Smallville but on a larger network), then the tech will age itself!
I agree with Greg, the Bruce Wayne/batman age analysis seems to hit the nail on the head. I think early 2000's based on the CRT's and older style phones.
In terms of typewriters and older 90's or late 80's cop cars, where a city or town is quite poor and/or the police dept is stretched, then it wouldn't be unheard of to use cars 10 - 15 years old, assuming 2001(ish) mid 80's plus would be about right. For the same reason, investment in IT equipment would be scant (diverting scarce resources into manpower to fight the high crime would be a higher priority than IT) so typewriters may still be commonplace.
A Perfect real life example might be Detroit.